Bob Chieffo published an excellent article last week on the importance of buttons on e-commerce sites in making it clear to the customer what they need to press next.

He points out, on Revenews, that many etailers allow too much room for confusion in the mind of the customer over what they need to do and press to make their purchase.

Here are Bob’s tips:

  • Make it obvious
    Simple one this – if a customer is viewing an item, the button marked ‘add to basket’ should be unmissable, a clear call to action. Essentially, all buttons which lead the customer along the purchase process should be the most prominent on the page.
  • Eliminate what’s not essential
    Bob suggests that customers should only be given what’s needed to complete a transaction, so buttons marked ‘proceed to checkout’ should be prominently displayed, while any other options, like ‘continue shopping’ should be less prominent.

    We would also advise etailers to enclose the checkout process, removing any links to anywhere in the site other than to complete the purchase.

  • Clear call to action
    Don’t have buttons saying anything which may be vague, such as ‘submit’ – use phrases like ‘buy now’, place your order’. Don’t leave any room for confusion.

I noticed an example of what Bob is talking about on Waterstones’ website recently. Having added a book to my basket, I found myself hunting around for the checkout button. Here’s the screenshot:

After a minute or so of fishing around, I chanced upon it by moving the cursor over in the top right hand corner until a dropdown menu appeared:


Hiding the checkout link / button in a dropdown is likely to cost Waterstones sales. Waterstones should experiment with a more visible ‘checkout’ button or page element – it doesn’t have to get rid of the dropdown, but can use multiple hi-vis routes to the checkout.

The key here is to make it easy for potential customers to buy from you. There should be no head scratching. If customers are ready to buy you have seconds to get it right, otherwise they may flee.

Amazon, as ever, provides an example of how it should be done – no room for confusion here:

Related research:

Online Retail 2007: Checkout Special